US Open: Heather Watson happy to be back at Flushing Meadows as a 'totally different person'
Last Updated: 26/08/14 3:32pm
Heather Watson left the US Open in tears 12 months ago, but returns with a smile on her face and looking to continue the form that has lifted her back into the world's top 50.
This season could not have been more of a contrast to 2013 for the British No 1, who has climbed more than 100 places in the rankings in seven months and claimed her two career-best ranking scalps.
Last year she arrived in New York low on confidence and still struggling to regain health and fitness after a bout of glandular fever.
Watson played pretty well in the first round against Simona Halep, who had already begun the rise that has taken her to world number two, but faded in the deciding set.
Reflecting on her difficult year afterwards, Watson could not hold back the tears.
"I think from the beginning of the year I've been quite consistent with my results and that's what I wanted," she said ahead of a first-round clash with Halep's Romanian countrywoman Sorana Cirstea.
"I wanted to get back where I was, but mostly just find my game again because last year I wasn't in a good place and couldn't find my game on the court, I wasn't very positive. But now I'm a totally different person.
"I was kind of dreading my match last year, but this year I'm really looking forward to it and playing well and I can really make the most of the rest of the year."
Watson announced herself as a potential star by winning the US Open junior title in 2009, but has not won a match at Flushing Meadows since.
Largely that is down to some unlucky draws, with Watson playing Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Halep in her first-round matches.
This time she appears to have struck relatively lucky, with Cirstea having slipped from a high of 21 in the rankings to 81, while Watson has won all their previous matches.
"It's a grand slam and everybody fights for their life out there, so it's never easy," said Watson.
"I've played Sorana quite a few times, once being this year at Fed Cup, so I know her game pretty well and I'm sure she knows mine.
"Every year, I think, 'I won the juniors here,' not the senior results I've had. Plus, when I've played here, even though I've lost, I've played well. I love the courts here. I love how it suits my game. And I do love New York as a city."
Watson likes to relax away from Flushing Meadows by heading to New York's comedy shows, while she is also hoping to take in a Broadway show this year.
Mostly, though, the 22-year-old wants to light up the tennis stage.
She set herself the target this year of reaching the second week at a grand slam, but has so far not been beyond the second round, although she pushed Angelique Kerber to three sets at Wimbledon.
Should she get past Cirstea, Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard is likely to stand in her way.
Watson has never beaten a top-10 opponent, but has secured her first two wins over top-20 players in the last two months, beating Flavia Pennetta at Eastbourne and Dominika Cibulkova in Montreal.
Formerly a defensive player, Watson has revolutionised her game under Argentinian coach Diego Veronelli and is confident she can comfortably surpass the career-high ranking of 39 she set last year.
She is only seven places adrift of that and has very few ranking points to defend having failed to win a tour-level match over the closing months of last season.
"I'm happy to see my ranking moving up but every time I look at it, it's still not good enough," said the Guernsey player. "I think that's a positive thing and it keeps me motivated.
"I feel like now I'm very different to when I was in the top 50 before. Then I got there with a different game style, hoping my opponent is going to miss.
"Now I'm getting there off me playing well, me making those shots. And I feel I can go so much higher than I am now."